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Evelyn, Nothing Fancy
For over a decade the regal life of an exceptional U.S. mid-western woman and her plush apartment situated in a small town on the banks of Lake Erie has been documented and compiled into a series of photographs, “Evelyn, Nothing Fancy.” The photographs invite the viewer inside to experience Evelyn’s domain, a common place transformed into a personal work of art, filled with precious powder blue and pink possessions. Evelyn’s hand-sewn garments, made of fabrics from Harrods and Liberty of London, and specially designed accessories are just as lovely as each of her idiosyncratic arrangements. The culmination of each object transformed her home into a dollhouse of human proportion, providing a haven for her personal happiness.
“Love Makes the World Go Round,” reads one of Evelyn’s pillows in the blue den. Romantic touches and feminine symbols of love and partnership are sprinkled throughout the apartment. Has a loved one passed away, or does the representation of love surrounding Evelyn stand for a peaceful, light-hearted and happy existence? At Evelyn’s these passionate decorating touches kept love in the air. When I visited Evelyn she gave me baked zucchini nut bread and we listened to classical music broadcast from Windsor, Ontario.
I asked Evelyn what influenced her fashionable affection for unique clothing made of such prints as leopard and camouflage and earrings created from shells by a woman in Florida who is sent a swatch of fabric to match each dress. She shared with me that when she started as a secretary at an accounting firm over fifty years ago, where she continues to walk to work today, that she wanted to look professional in suits she made herself, ensuring no one else would arrive in the same dress. Everyday Evelyn appeared on her own red carpet, and for that I am grateful. The “Evelyn, Nothing Fancy” photographs describe an independent woman, deserved of honor for her expression of individuality through color and adornment. “Evelyn” relays an emotional connection between one individual and her intimate surroundings. Different from the portrayal of current life as seen in the media, these works explore the mysterious beauty that is present behind what inspires an individual to be unique within a world of conformity.
Lesley Louden works as an independent documentary photographer and Professor in Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her recent project “Learning to Hope: Children, HIV, and Education in Lesotho” is included in Moving Walls 15 Documentary Photography Exhibition at the Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation Network on display in NYC and Washington DC from December 2008 – April 2010. Lesley works as a still photographer with filmmaker Anne Evans on projects for social change. Recent projects include documentaries for the African Library Project in sub-Saharan Africa and for the Columbian Environmental Agency CORALINA in the western Caribbean, and BUILD in East Palo Alto and Oakland, CA. Lesley received her BFA in photography from Ohio Wesleyan University and MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art. She worked as an assistant for fine art photographer Ralph Gibson prior to beginning her own career. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the US and Australia.